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ASA Slaps BT for Best Performing Broadband Claim

Posted: 08th Oct, 2008 By: MarkJ
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint by Virgin Media against a national and regional press advert for BT's Total Broadband service. In the ad BT referred to itself as the "Best Performing Broadband" provider and sighted an independent survey by Epitiro as evidence for its claim.

However the claim failed to make clear that Epitiro's Jan'06 to Jan'08 surveys were only conducted with ADSL providers and did not include cable operators, such as Virgin Media. BT deemed that 'ADSL' would have been too complicated for most people to understand and did not include it in the advert; the ASA disagreed:

ASA Statement: Although we accepted that some readers would not be familiar with the term, we considered that most would understand ADSL to be a mode of broadband delivery. We welcomed BTs assurance that they would amend future advertising so that claims were always immediately qualified by the term 'ADSL' if the claim was specific to ADSL.

Nevertheless, we considered that the headline claim "We've been named Best Performing Broadband, again" did not make clear that the claim was specific to ADSL broadband. We concluded that, without immediate qualification, the ad was likely to mislead.

On this point, the ad breached CAP Code clauses 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 19.1 (Fair comparison) but did not breach 3.1 (Substantiation).

Though it's not stated in the ASA's ruling, Epitiro's survey is also a poor benchmark because it fails to include many smaller and more reliable providers. Therefore we believe that any blanket claim about being the "Best" would have been misleading.

Virgin Media also complained that BT had failed to include a prominent reference to the requirement of a BT line or similar. The ASA did not uphold this complaint, believing consumers could understand that a phone line would be required.
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